Twice a year, during the earth’s orbit around the sun, we experience equal amounts of daylight and nighttime as the sun crosses over the equator. In the Spring, we call it Vernal Equinox, and every Fall in September it goes by the name of Autumnal Equinox.
But Autumnal Equinox is much more than marking the season before the nights get longer and the leaves change color, soon to parachute from branches to the ground below. Equinox, meaning “equal night”, has its share of folklore and tradition as well. Some are rooted in mythology, others are more grounded and carry their tradition to this day. Those surrounding Autumnal Equinox included the following:
One of eight Wiccan festivals that honor nature, Called Sabbats, falls near this date in September.
In Greek mythology, Persephone (formerly named Kore) returns to the Underworld on Autumnal Equinox to live with her husband, Hades, for half a year after living on Earth with her mother, Demeter, starting at Vernal Equinox.
Mabon, the Witch’s Thanksgiving, was a Welsh god and the male “counterpart” to the Persephone myth. Taken from his mother while only days old, Mabon gestates in the womb of Modron (the Great Mother) waiting to be reborn.
Higan (meaning “the other shore”—nirvana), a Buddhist memorial service, occurs around the time of Autumnal Equinox (as well as Vernal Equinox), for seven days and serves to comfort ancestral spirits with loved ones visiting family graves.
Michaelmas, the Christian holiday honoring the Archangel Michael, has pagan roots in Autumnal Equinox—end of harvest time, the marking of shorter days and longer nights, as well as the expulsion of Lucifer from Heaven by Archangel Michael.
Clearly, this time of year has a variety of cultural observances spread around the world, diverse in custom, yet united in season. This September, when experiencing one of the biannual “balancings of nature”, remember the multitude of celebrations that share the advent of Autumn.